Adam Benjamin Jr.

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Adam Benjamin Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1977 – September 7, 1982
Preceded byRay J. Madden
Succeeded byKatie Hall
Member of the Indiana Senate
In office
Member of the Indiana House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1935-08-06)August 6, 1935
Gary, Indiana
DiedSeptember 7, 1982(1982-09-07) (aged 47)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materB.S. United States Military Academy,
J.D. Valparaiso University
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Marine Corps
United States Army
Years of service1952–1961
RankFirst lieutenant
Unit101st Airborne Division
Battles/warsKorean War

Adam Benjamin Jr. (August 6, 1935 – September 7, 1982) was an American politician and a United States Representative from Indiana's 1st congressional district, serving from 1977 until his death from a heart attack in Washington, D.C. in 1982. Benjamin was the first Assyrian-American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives in American history.[1] Benjamin served in the Indiana Senate from 1971 to 1977, the Indiana House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971, and was a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and career

Born to an Assyrian father, Adam Benjamin, and Armenian mother, Margaret Marjanian, in Gary, Indiana, on August 6, 1935, Adam Benjamin Jr. graduated from Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, in 1952.[2] Benjamin joined the Marine Corps in 1952, and served as a corporal in the Korean War until he was honorably discharged in 1954.[3] After serving in the Marine Corps, he gained an appointment to the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, earning a B.S. degree in engineering in 1958. Following three years in the 101st airborne division the "Screaming Eagles", and ranger training in the U.S. Army, in 1961 Benjamin left the Army as a first lieutenant.

After his service in the Military, Benjamin returned to Gary in 1961 and began teaching math and physics at Edison High School. Two years later, he entered public service as Gary's zoning administrator from 1963 to 1965, and gained further experience in local government acting as Gary Mayor A. Martin Katz's executive secretary from 1965 through 1966.[4]

During his work in public service, Benjamin attended Valparaiso University Law School, graduated with his Juris Doctor and was admitted to the Indiana Bar Association in 1966. Shortly after Benjamin was admitted to the Indiana Bar, he ran for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives, winning two consecutive terms in 1966, and in 1968.[2] Benjamin served in the Indiana House until he won a seat in the Indiana Senate in 1970, winning reelection in 1974, and served in the Indiana Senate from 1971 to 1977. During his time in the Indiana Senate, Benjamin was named Outstanding State Senator by newsmen assigned to report on the Indiana General Assembly. As a state legislator, Mr. Benjamin developed a new code of ethics for legislators, worked on a new state medical malpractice act, and facilitated court reform for the Lake County Superior Court system.[4] Two years after Benjamin won a seat in the Indiana Senate, he challenged incumbent 12-term Congressman Ray J. Madden for the Democratic nomination for Indiana's 1st congressional district, but eventually lost the hotly contested primary. By 1976, having gained significant name recognition as an Indiana legislator, Benjamin again challenged Madden in the Democratic primary, this time defeating him with 56% of the vote, compared with Madden's 34%. In the general election Benjamin beat evangelical Protestant educator, and co-founder of Moral Majority, Robert J. Billings, with a 40% margin of victory.[5][6]

United States House of Representatives

Benjamin served in the 95th, 96th, and 97th Congresses from 1977 until his death in 1982. Benjamin sat on the House Appropriations Committee, and served as the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, aiding Northwest Indiana with projects such as improved Amtrak facilities, new South Shore Railroad commuter cars, and funding for an I-94 interchange to provide access to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as well as improvements in Gary's bus system and municipal airport.[7] In addition, Benjamin chaired the executive committee of the Congressional Steel Caucus, a bi-partisan coalition of congressman that promotes the health and stability of the domestic steel industry. To encourage the Calumet Region's economic recovery, Benjamin worked to establish the Calumet Forum, with representatives of labor, industry, banking, publishing, education, politics, transportation, and the religious community seeking to promote the economic resurgence and development of the Region. Regarding the importance of the Forum, Benjamin commented, "I've put myself on the line for this ... I've got to do it. It just has to be done."

Benjamin continued to gain a reputation for hard work, dedication, effectiveness, and loyalty among both his colleagues and his constituents. He retained his seat in the 1978 and 1980 elections, and was seeking a fourth congressional term when he died suddenly from a heart attack in September 1982.[8] He is buried in Merrillville, Indiana's Calumet Park Cemetery.

The Adam Benjamin Metro Center in downtown Gary, Indiana and the Veterans Affairs clinic in Crown Point, Indiana,[9] are named in his honor. Indiana State Road 51 in Hobart, Indiana is signed as the Adam Benjamin Highway.

Electoral history


Indiana's 1st congressional district election, 1976[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Adam Benjamin Jr. 121,155 71.3
Republican Robert J. Billings 48,756 28.7


Indiana's 1st congressional district election, 1978[10]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Adam Benjamin Jr. 72,367 80.2%
Republican Robert J. Billings 17,419 19.3
U.S. Labor Christopher Martinson 384 0.4%


Indiana's 1st congressional district election, 1980[11]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Adam Benjamin Jr. 112,016 72.0%
Republican Joseph Douglas Harkin 43,537 28.0%

See also


  1. ^ "Assyrians in Middle America A Historical and Demographic Study of the Chicago Assyrian Community" (PDF). Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Congress, United States; Dodge, Andrew R.; Koed, Betty K. (2005). Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774–2005. ISBN 9780160731761. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "Jaycees: Politician members in Indiana". Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Calumet Regional Archives". Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Robert J. Billings Is Dead at 68; Helped Form the Moral Majority". Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 2, 1976" (PDF). Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  7. ^ "WHO IS WHO". Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation. Archived from the original on April 21, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  8. ^ "Adam Benjamin, Congressman, Dies". New York Times. September 8, 1982.
  9. ^ "Adam Benjamin Jr., Veterans' Administration Outpatient Clinic". Veterans Administration. Retrieved 7 June 2024.
  10. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 7, 1978" (PDF). Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 4, 1980" (PDF). Retrieved 14 October 2016.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 1st congressional district

Succeeded by